Friday, January tenth

I am exhilarated and discouraged tonight.  I am right in the middle of a chance to make a huge, maybe even a life and death difference, in the lives of the locals.  There is so much to do to just get up and running.  We do not have access to seed and must source it locally.  The language barrier is a major obstacle.  Everyone speaks Kiyarwanda and French.  I speak English and Hausa.  We do not have working phone lines.  I have zero staff.  Next week I expect four volunteers coming from Kenya.  I need to hire twenty local staff.  I have a million-dollar budget and ten thousand dollars in one hundred-dollar bills in my pocket.  

Compared to 1994 when the first refugees returned the cities are much cleaner.  There are functioning stop lights.  There are fewer road blocks and check points but low-level violence continues.  Bribery and corruption are seriously dealt with.  The government has given 72-hour notice to several non-government agencies to leave.  I wonder if that is an unspoken policy to keep other agencies who have more resources and influence in line.  Funny how one measures progress.  I met several previous acquaintances, government officials, and UN personnel.  I tried to connect via email and make a few phone calls.  No luck on either effort.

Saturday, January eleventh 

Woke up clear eyed and ready to take on the world at 4:00 A.M.  Something must be wrong to be so positive.  I talked with the family today.  Rwanda is seven hours ahead of Michigan.  I talked with Stephane, a MSU college student who is living with us.  Jan was off to Grand Rapids to see our daughter and family move to Boston.

I did not sleep well last night having a lot of doubts and discouragement but today got started with loading the vehicle, getting it maintained, buying supplies, talked to potentially work candidates and putting a plan together.  This old horse is starting to plow the field.  One thing I did was this morning was read the report on the work I did two years ago with the first return of refugees.  We accomplished a lot, helping about 300,000 people get seed, hoes, and food.  I want to see if we can exceed it.  I also discovered that a portion of the recipients of two years ago lost everything they had when the militia came across from Ijwe Island and attacked.  The defending military decided to destroy any further incentive so they burned all the crops, houses, and took all the cattle.  The returnees had to run again.  Seemed to me to be a great way to win the battle but lose the war.

I worked four hours on my Hewlett Packard 19B Business Consultant II calculator and remote infrared printer.  Seems to work great except it does not print…much like Africa.  It is a wonderful place, full of terrific people, where nothing seems to work.

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Rwanda Diary

Sunday, January twelfth

I got up real early to try again to speak to my wife.  I bet that you wept yourself to sleep.  I could tell.  Then I went to one of the few English services in the country.  The only reason I go is because it is right to do so.  It is hard to hear/understand, has a lot of echo, the singing is awful, preaching only slightly better, the benches made for children, the list could go on.  I heard some follow up stores from my previous time in Rwanda.  A man had been protected in the village where I had lived.  He is now in Kenya where he can teach.  If he had been caught he would certainly have been put in prison and probably executed.  His only crime having been a Hutu trying to prevent the killing of Tutsi.

Late in 1995, after we had departed, many returning Tutsi from Zaire returned and accused the church of siding with the makers of genocide.  They accomplished a coup de etat within the church, taking over offices, pastorates, claiming vehicles, and paying themselves outlandish salaries.  Only by the grace of God was Alfred, an outstanding Swiss missionary, hung in effigy, able to defend himself pointing to his own service and our work as proof of helping all persons in need regardless of ethnic origin.  No supper tonight but a candy bar.  I am going to come home thinner.

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Rwanda Diary

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